US Defense Secretary Austin Expected To Meet With Chinese Counterpart In Singapore

(MENAFN- AzerNews) U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to meet with hisChinese counterpart, Admiral Dong Jun, at a major defenseconference in Singapore next week, Azernews reports citing AP News .

It will be the first meeting between the two defense leadersfollowing a phone call in April. It comes as the U.S. and Chinahave gradually worked to warm relations, which had been largelyfrozen since a controversial visit to Taiwan by former HouseSpeaker Nancy Pelosi in 2022 resulted in China temporarily stoppingmost military-to-military communications.

The announcement came shortly before the Pentagon said Austinwould undergo a medical procedure at Walter Reed National MilitaryMedical Center on Friday evening and transfer power temporarily tohis deputy. Austin is dealing with bladder issues that arose inDecember following his treatment for prostate cancer.

Later Friday, the Pentagon said the procedure was successful andAustin had resumed duty and returned home.“No changes in hisofficial schedule are anticipated at this time, to include hisparticipation in scheduled Memorial Day events,” Pentagon presssecretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said.

Austin and Dong, China's minister of national defense, areexpected to meet during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore nextweek, an annual meeting of defense ministers and governmentofficials from more than 50 countries.

The meeting also comes, however, as China has engaged inaggressive military drills around Taiwan, resulting in Taiwanscrambling jets and putting missile, naval and land units on alertThursday.

China launched the exercises after the island's new president,Lai Ching-te, was inaugurated and delivered a speech asking Beijingto cease its intimidation against the island but face the realityof its existence. Beijing rejected his remarks as advocating forseparatism and launched the military drills.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and vows to seizeit by force if necessary to achieve unification. The U.S. isobligated under federal law to ensure the island can defenditself.

In the wake of those exercises, the U.S. has cautioned China notto use Taiwan's political transition as a“pretext or excuse” forprovocative or coercive measures, a defense official said. Theofficial spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide detailsthat had not been made public.

The two governments began to engage each other more afterPresident Biden hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in November inCalifornia and stressed the need to keep communications open.

Dong is a former naval commander who was appointed in lateDecember after his predecessor, Li Shangfu, was removed fromoffice. Dong spoke with Austin by phone in April over issuesincluding the war in Ukraine, freedom of navigation in the SouthChina Sea, Taiwan and North Korea.

Austin last met a Chinese defense minister in November 2022,when he and Wei Fenghe, then China's defense minister, were inCambodia for a regional defense minister meeting.

No U.S. defense secretary has visited China since Jim Mattisvisited in 2018.



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